Friday, January 19, 2007

The Ritual in the Woods (EL 13)

This encounter is the climax of the second part of the Horror of the Old Ones, a D20 fantasy adventure for 10th level characters. At this point the party has entered the Elsemere woods in search of the village priest. Eventually they will find their way to a clearing with some ancient ruins.

Forest Features

Lighting: The forest is relatively dimly lit, much dimmer than the outside. However, even at night, the forest seems to have the same light. It's as if there is no difference in the wood. Daylight (or nightlight) filters through the canopy, creating an ambient effect.

Creatures: Creatures in this part of the wood are less tame than in other woods. For instance, foxes, deep and other woodland creatures are likely to be aggressive rather than docile.

The Ritual in the Woods (EL 13)

Clearing Features

Lighting: As normal. Sunlight and moonlight during their respective hours.

Creatures: No natural creatures live in the clearing, but there are inhabitants detailed below.

This large field is dotted with the remnants of ancient stone buildings or walls, mossy, overgrown and half buried. A group of people are gathered around a large flat stone, chanting along with a hooded figure standing before the stone.

As the party watches the sky takes on a startling transformation. The clearing darkens and stars become visible in the sky, however none of the constellations are familiar. A transparent creature appears in the sudden darkness. Its enormous lumpy head, shoulders and membranous wings occupy a third of the sky, looming over the horizon.

This enormous shape begins to draw closer, becoming smaller as it does so. Soon it hovers above the altar, silently regarding the Priest with its alien eyes. He draws back his hood, revealing himself as Ernaldus, Elsemere's Priest of St. Cuthbert. His eyes wild, he beseeches the apparition in strange words with arms upraised.

The phantom reaches out with its long arm, its rubbery digits squirming. Dark energy passes from its grotesque hand to the priest's head and a horrible transformation overtakes the man. Ernaldus' features are twisted as his skin turns a mottled green-brown and his mouth and jaws widen unnaturally. In his gaping maw are revealed rows of pointy teeth, like a lamprey's mouth. As his body runs like wax at the apparition's touch, the cleric begins to scream in terror. His eyes blank and glassy, he begins pleading towards the horror in the sky to stop drinking his soul. His tortured pleadings are punctuated with sobbing cries of, "It doesn't even know I'm here! It doesn't even know I'm here! I'm an insect! A mote! It's eyes!!!" before trailing off into incomprehensible burbles and croaks. Similar changes turn half the cultists into vaguely reptilian or amphibian mockeries of their former selves. Their screams and groans create a symphony of anguish that echoes throughout the clearing.

The transformed priest, or whatever is now pulling the strings of his mind, straightens up and seems to recover his composure somewhat. Speaking with a strange slurring voice that is not entirely human, he orders the destruction of the nonbelievers who have profaned this holy moment.

Creatures: Ernaldus, Begotten of the Old Ones (5), Shada Monks (5) and a projection of the Old One. The cultists are enacting a ritual they hope will bring forth the unknown source of dark power they've been worshiping. They will attack any who is profaning this sacred moment. The Old One is here in a special projected form, and so is not able to act with its full strength or enjoy the benefits of its reality-warping. Use the stats below for this form.

Projected form of the Old One (CR 11)
Chaotic Evil Outsider
Size Large Aberration (incorporeal)
Init:+0 Senses: Darkvison 120
Listen +20 Spot +20

AC: 28 (+19 natural, -1 size) touch 14, flat-footed 33
HP: 140 (HD 16d8+96)
Resist: Incorporeal (50% miss chance)
Fort: +14 Ref: +5 Will: +14

MV: 30 ft, fly 40 ft (perfect)
Attack: claw +19 (1d6+8)
Full Attack: 2 claws +19 (1d6+8) and 8 tentacles +17 (1d6+4)
Space / Reach: 10' / 10'
Base Attack: +12 Grapple: +24

Abilities: Str 26(+8), Dex 10, Con 24(+7), Int 21(+5), Wis 19(+4), Cha 23 (+6)
Feats: Multiattack, Combat Expertiese, Power Attack, Cleave, Improved Sunder, Great Fortitude
Skills: Concentration 23, Knowledge (Arcana) 20, Knowledge (Planes) 21, Knowledge (Dungoneering) 21, Listen 20, Spellcraft 21, Spot 20

Ernaldus, the Corrupted Priest CR 11
Chaotic Evil human cleric 9
Size Medium Aberration
Init: -2 Senses: Darkvision 60'
Listen +3 Spot +3
Languages: common, telepathy 60'

AC: 22 (+5 armor, +5 natural armor, +4 deflection) touch 12, flat-footed 22
HP: 66 (HD 9d8+24)
Resist: DR 5 / lawful, SR 15
Fort: +9 Ref: +1 Will:+9

MV: 20'
Attack: +11 appendage 1d6+5
Full Attack: +11 / +8 appendage (1d6+5)
Attack Options:
Space / Reach: 5ft / 5ft
Base Attack: +6/+1 Grapple: +8

Abilities: Str: 14 Dex: 10 Con: 14 (16) Int: 10 Wis: 16 Cha: 12
SQ: Lightning Touch, Otherworldly Gaze, Spell-like abilities (see below)
Feats: 5 spell focus enchantment, scribe scroll,
Skills: points: concentration +10, knowledge (religion) +8, spellcraft +8

Spells Prepared (DC 13 + spell level)
0th: 6:
1st: 4+1: cure light wounds, doom (2), shield of faith, protection from good*
2nd: 4+1: cure moderate wounds, hold person, silence, sound burst, blindness*
3rd: 3+1: cure serious wounds, dispel magic, prayer, contagion*
4th: 2+1: cure critical wounds, greater magic weapon, unholy blight*
5th: 1+1: flame strike, feeblemind*
* domain spell

Domains: corruption (ignore hardness when attacking an object 1/day), evil (evil spells are cast at 1 higher caster level)
Spell-Like Abilities: blur 1/day
Possessions: breastplate +1 (200 gp), Amulet of Health +2 (4000gp), Lesser Rod of Metamagic (Empower) (9000 gp), scroll of symbol of pain, potion of cure moderate wounds, brown robes.

DR: 5 / lawful (axiomatic)

SR: 15

3 Shada Cultists CR 5
Chaotic Neutral human monk 5
Size Medium humanoid
Init: +3
Listen +10 Spot +10
Languages: common

AC: 16 (+3 monk bonus, +3 dex), touch 16, flat-footed 16
HP: 29 (HD 5d8+5)
Fort: +4 Ref: +4 Will: +4

MV: 40 ft
Attack: +5 unarmed strike (1d8+1)
Full Attack: flurry of blows +4 / +4 unarmed strike (1d8+1)
Attack Options: stunning fist (DC 14 Fort. or stun for 1 rd.), improved grapple, improved trip (+4 on Str check)
Space / Reach: 5ft / 5ft
Base Attack: +3 Grapple: +8

Abilities: Str: 13 Dex: 15 Con: 12 Int: 10 Wis: 14 Cha: 8
SQ: evasion, still mind
SA: flurry of blows, ki strike (magic), stunning fist
Feats: 3 stunning fist, combat reflexes, weapon focus unarmed strike, improved grapple, improved trip
Skills: +10 listen, +10 spot, +11 tumble

3 Begotten of the Old Ones CR 5
Chaotic Neutral with evil tendencies
Medium Size Aberration
Init: +2 Senses: darkvision 60'
Listen +7 Spot +7
Languages: Telepathy 60' and common

AC: 17 (+2 dex, +5 natural armor), touch 12, flat-footed 15
HP: (HD 9d8+ 27)
Defenses: SR 15, DR 5 / lawful
Fort: +6 Ref: +5 Will: +5

MV: 30, swim 30 or fly 30'
Attack: +10 appendage 1d6+4
Full Attack: +11 appendage (1d6+4), and +11 appendage (1d6+4)
Attack Options: Lightning Touch
Space / Reach: 5ft. / 5ft.
Base Attack: +6 Grapple: +10

Abilities: Str: 18 Dex: 15 Con: 17 Int: 9 Wis: 12 Cha: 6
SQ: DR 5/lawful, SR 15, darkvision 60'
SA: spell like abilities: blur
Feats: weapon focus (appendage), power attack, ability focus (Otherworldly Gaze), quicken spell-like ability (blur)
Skills: +7 listen, +7 spot

Lightning Touch (Su): Begotten of the Old Ones can generate, as a free action, a burst of electricity from within their bodies that damages and may stun their victims. The touch deals 1d8 points of electricity damage and stuns the target for 1d4 rounds. A DC 17 Fortitude save avoids the stun effect - the save is constitution based. They may use this ability once per round, delivered by melee attack.

Otherworldly Gaze: As a standard action begotten can focus their otherwordly gaze upon a mortal creature and create a haze of confusion as the spell. A DC 17 will save is required to avoid this confusion (save is wisdom based), which lasts as long as the begotten concentrates upon it.

Spell-like abilities: blur 1/day. Caster level 5th.

DR: 5 / lawful (axiomatic)

SR: 15

Tactics: The Shada monks will attack immediately, charging the nearest party member and attempting to flank them while the Begotten will use their otherworldly gaze on the nearest targets. The projected Old One will float into the midst of the party and lash out with its claws and tentacles at opportune targets.

Ernaldus will prepare with the following spells before joining the fray. First will be a symbol of pain from the scroll he carries. Anyone approaching within 60' must make a DC 18 Fortitude save or suffer -4 to attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks. After that he will cast prayer, shield of faith, and greater magic weapon (on his appendage). His statistics are altered to include these effects. He will then cast hold person on a warrior before casting feeblemind, flame strike (empowered) and unholy blight (empowered) on any spellcasters before supporting the monks and begotten with empowered healing.

Treasure: offerings for the Old One amounting to 9 gems worth 2600 gp total. There are also five minor magic items: Amulet of Mighty Fists +1, Elixir of Sneaking, Boots of Elvenkind, Dust of Illusion, and a Swan Boat Feather Token.

Development: Once the party defeats the priest and his twisted worshipers, Ernaldus will fall to the ground and regain one last moment of lucidity as his former self. As his life slips away, he will gasp out a gurgling, mostly incoherent rant, that will contain one clue for the party to continue on to the next phase of their mission.

“No light...only darkness and hunger...I didn't know... How could I have known?... It sleeps and dreams...under Harpy's Point...I know its secret now...oh the horror! The horror! We are all doomed...we have always been doomed...death without end...eons without hope...oblivion...”

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